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The Complete Guide to Physical Security

The Complete Guide to Physical Security. By Paul R. Baker, CPP, and Daniel J. Benny, CPP. Auerbach Publications;; 360 pages; $69.95; also available as e-book.

Putting the words “The Complete Guide to” in the title of any book is setting the bar high, signaling that the book will provide all the necessary information a person needs on a particular subject. While the authors make a solid attempt to do just that, unfortunately they fall somewhat short of the bar they have set; a more apt title would have been An Introduction to Physical Security. There is plenty of material laid out in the book and there is no doubt that the authors have the credentials to discuss the topic of physical security, but other authors have already published excellent books in this area.

The material is hit or miss. Sometimes it strikes the mark with such examples as the Standard Security Questionnaire and explanations of “criticality,” “defense-in-depth,” and use of multiple layers of personnel, physical, and procedural security, as well as strengths and weaknesses of countermeasures. Other times it misses—for example, with its vague descriptions of risk assessments, especially for those new to the topic. Other areas would benefit from diagrams, spreadsheets, or other complementary and associated documents and photos to highlight processes.

There is much to like about this book with its definitions as well as the logical progression through the chapters on how to develop a physical security program. It also incorporates many security principles and practices based on experience. The section on HVAC security, for example, suggests a common-sense approach that is also grounded in research.

Not so likable is the broad-brush approach used to introduce and discuss the material, unfortunately without a lot of detail in many cases. The authors recognize this is not a standalone document, as the book references other sources at the end of each chapter. The section on access control, for example, offers a basic introduction to theoretical concepts; however, such issues as card database entry and management and false alarms—the bane of almost every system—are not discussed at all. The section on CCTV would benefit from a discussion on when cameras should be used and, just as important, when not to use them.  

It was encouraging to see the practical examples of physical security at play, including government security, banking security, and data protection centers. This book would be a great reference for shift supervisors and junior security managers. It is a good introduction to physical security concepts. Its easy-to-read style and content level supports the notion that this is an entry-level book.

Reviewer: Glen Kitteringham, CPP, is president of Kitteringham Security Group Inc., and consults with companies around the globe. He is a member of the ASIS Foundation Research Council.